Pakistani and North Korean Stockpiles

According to the New York Times, Adm. Mike Mullen, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in confidential briefings last month told certain Senators that Pakistan "is rapidly adding to its nuclear arsenal, even while racked by insurgency" raising questions on Capitol Hill about whether "billions of dollars in proposed military aid might be diverted to Pakistan’s nuclear program."

Now, perhaps you still suppose Times reporters — such as David Sanger — tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

Silly you.

Adm. Mullen was almost certainly referring to Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program. And Sanger knew it. But that’s not what Sanger reported. He didn’t tell the whole truth about Pakistan, and almost never tells the whole truth about Iran.

You see, when the Times (in consonance with other Likudnik-sycophantic main-stream-media outlets) reports in the first paragraph on Iran’s "nuclear program" — repeatedly verified by the International Atomic Energy Agency to be exclusively for peaceful purposes — you will always, thereafter, think nuclear weapons program.

Now, the Likudniks, themselves, make it clear that they regard Iran’s IAEA-Safeguarded peaceful nuclear programs to be an "existential threat" to Israel.

And, a couple of months ago, Andrew Cordesman of the Center for Strategic & International Studies here in Washington, updated a previous study, instructing the paranoid Israelis in considerable detail how to go about "destroying" Iran’s IAEA-Safeguarded facilities. And since that includes the nearly operational 1000 MWe nuclear power plant constructed at Bushehr by the Russians, the sooner the Israelis strike, the better.

Meanwhile, as a direct result of the unilateral abrogation (in the run-up to the Bush-Cheney War of Aggression against Iraq) of the U.S.-IAEA-DRPKAgreed Framework [.pdf] with North Korea, the North Koreans now have a small stockpile of plutonium-239 implosion-type nuclear weapons, and have tested at least one successfully.

The neighboring Chinese and Russians are very concerned about the mess Bush-Cheney-Bolton have left them on the Korean Peninsula, perhaps because if provoked, the paranoid North Koreans would probably nuke American occupation forces in the South.

Totally unlikely? Not according to the Korean Central News Agency of the DPRK.

"Most recently the U.S. imperialists set the UN Security Council in motion to adopt the extremely provocative "resolution of sanctions" against the DPRK, taking issue with the just and self-defensive nuclear test of the DPRK, and thus created unprecedentedly acute confrontation on the Korean peninsula.

"All the facts show patently that the war moves of the U.S. imperialists to provoke a nuclear war on the Korean peninsula at any cost have reached an extremely reckless phase."

Now, the North Koreans can’t have more than a dozen Plutonium-239 nukes, and no Uranium-235 nukes at all. Furthermore, the paranoid Israelis to the contrary, the paranoid North Koreans are probably not capable of rebuilding their small Russian-built Pu-239-producing reactor, much less replicating it in the Syrian desert.

So, where could they get more Pu-239?

Well, how about Pakistan?

Scroll back to late 1991, as the Soviet Union was collapsing. Senators Nunn, Lugar, Domenici et al rushed through our Congress authorization for the President, Secretary of Defense and Secretary of Energy to (a) assist Russia and the other states of the former Soviet Union secure and safeguard the 30,000 or more Soviet nuclear weapons (b) assist them in dismantling excess nuclear weapons and (c) safely and securely disposing of the fissile material obtained from that dismantlement.

Although most of the funds Congress appropriated for these Nunn-Lugar-Domenici programs were intended to be spent in Russia (buying wherever possible Russian-built equipment and partially paying the salaries of Russian scientists, engineers and technicians), some funds were also spent for: (a) visits of U.S. scientists to Russian Institutes to check on the progress of Lab-to-Institute projects, all of which were to be conducted in Russia by Russians and (b) visits of Russian scientists to DOE National Labs to see for themselves how we protect, control and account for our fissile materials, and the equipment we use for those purposes.

However, the incoming Clinton-Gore Administration, when charged with implementing these Nunn-Lugar-Domenici programs, seemed not to understand their purpose.

The Clinton-Gore State Department and National Security Council Staff began to urge: (a) the inclusion of Russian Institutes that were known not to have been involved in nuclear programs, but were suspected by the CIA of having been engaged in Soviet (and now Russian) biological weapons development and (b) the "replication" of Nunn-Lugar-Domenici programs with the People’s Republic of China, for the purposes of "opening a window" into the PRC closed nuclear weapons community.

A report got back to Congress that Clinton-Gore had even offered to set up U.S.-Indian and U.S.-Pakistani cooperative ”stockpile stewardship" programs, by which the integrity of their existing stockpiles could be maintained — like ours — without testing, using supercomputers we would supply them. Whether true or not, in 1997 Congress angrily prohibited in law any such cooperative nuke programs with any nation-state — excepting only Russia.

Then, in the spring of 1998, first India and then Pakistan conducted a number of underground proof-tests of nuclear weapons, all the Indian nukes being Pu-239 implosion-types and at least one Pakistani.

Which brings us back to Adm. Mullen’s recent confidential Senate testimony that the Pakistanis have been diverting much of the billions of dollars in U.S. aid to urgently increasing their capability to produce Pu-239 for nukes.

In an alarming article in Counterpunch this week, Andrew Cockburn quotes a "former national security official with knowledge of the [Obama-Biden-Clinton] policy as saying ‘We want to get in there and manage [their nuclear weapons program]. If we manage it, we can make sure they don’t start [sic] testing — or start a war.’"

What would this "management" involve? Well, according to Cockburn’s official, paying for and supervising a program of "technical support" to make Pakistani nukes safe and secure. And, according to Cockburn, it would also involve establishing a U.S.-Pakistani "stockpile stewardship" program, the very thing Congress prohibited back in 1997.

Of course, that was before Pakistan tested its nukes.

Cockburn closes by wondering aloud whether a U.S.-DPRK "stockpile stewardship" program might be in the works, now that Bush-Cheney-Bolton have enabled the North Koreans to produce a nuke stockpile of their own that can hardly be "safe and secure."

Read more by Gordon Prather

Author: Gordon Prather

Physicist James Gordon Prather has served as a policy implementing official for national security-related technical matters in the Federal Energy Agency, the Energy Research and Development Administration, the Department of Energy, the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Department of the Army. Dr. Prather also served as legislative assistant for national security affairs to U.S. Sen. Henry Bellmon, R-Okla. — ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee and member of the Senate Energy Committee and Appropriations Committee. Dr. Prather had earlier worked as a nuclear weapons physicist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California and Sandia National Laboratory in New Mexico.